On Saturday morning, as much of the political press corps pursued angles on Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" remarks, the governor of Kentucky was addressing the annual Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham hotel. Unlike many of the three-day event's speakers, he used no notes or teleprompter.
"Somebody told me, they were looking forward to what I was going to say," Gov. Matt Bevin (R) said. "I said, 'So am I.' I don't tend to overthink things too much."
A few minutes later, he proved that, by reflecting on the number of speakers who worried whether the United States could ever be restored if Clinton won the presidency.
"I do think it would be possible, but at what price?" he asked. "At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what?"
"The blood of tyrants!" said an audience member.
"The blood of who?" Bevin asked. "The tyrants, to be sure, but who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we, through our apathy and indifference, have given away."
Bevin's speech made no immediate impact. The media that had swarmed the Values Voter Summit for Donald Trump's speech Friday did not return Saturday. That evening, when Bevin returned to Kentucky to speak at a party dinner, and whacked Clinton on "deplorables," local reports made no mention of the Values Voter speech. (Personal confession time: After two days of apocalyptic rhetoric, I listened to Bevin but did not hear a story.)
Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, did hear a story. Peter Montgomery, PFAW's tireless correspondent at conservative conferences, wrote up the Bevin remarks for a Monday blog post. Hours later, the Lexington Herald-Leader's Daniel Desrochers chased the story and got an explanation from Bevin: He was speaking about the future battles of "thousands of men and women in uniform fighting for us overseas," a point that, if made, evaded his audience.
Not until Tuesday, 72 hours after Bevin first made the remarks — with TV cameras running, in the nation's capital — did it land as a national story. The Huffington Post tied it to the presidential race ("Republican nominee Donald Trump has also used violent imagery during his presidential campaign"), while the Associated Press got fresh comment from an increasingly irritated governor.
"I would encourage anyone who truly cares about this issue to invest 15 minutes of time and listen to my comments in their entirety," Bevin said in a statement to the AP's Adam Beam. "Any intelligent person will easily understand the message I delivered."
Bevin, who is not on the ballot again until 2019, has earned fitful national attention for his efforts to unwind his commonwealth's successful Affordable Care Act expansion. In a vacuum, his hyperbole might have slipped past the national media. But the "basket of deplorables" remark, covered at first as a clear problem for Clinton, has created new reasons to investigate the rhetoric of Trump's political allies. That has complicated what had been a clear attempt by Trump, and his reshuffled campaign team, to abandon the showy gaffes of August and earn coverage as a "softer" candidate.